If you’re like me, you get interrupted a lot while you work.  Co-workers stop by to ask questions, the phone rings, or an instant message pops up with something to answer right away.  You might want to cut off these distractions, and that’s often a smart move.  Carving out time during your day when you won’t be interrupted will help you get more work done and keep you on task.

It will also keep you from being confused (Photo by notmargaret)

However, you might go to an extreme in which by cutting off distractions, you cut off everything.  Emails go unanswered for days, and sooner rather than later, people are wondering what you’re up to.  That’s not a great position to be in either.  You might be getting more work done now, but if people can’t find you at all, then you can’t collaborate with them.  Work relationships suffer, and suddenly, you’ve lost a lot of your reputation for being a solid teammate.

If you need more distraction-free time, but don’t want to go completely off the radar, here are some tips to strike a balance:

  • Set aside key hours when you are unavailable.  Instead of simply disappearing, tell people that you will be “heads down” from a certain time period (e.g. 1 pm to 3pm).  When your time is up, spend your first “online” time looking over messages and answering questions you missed while underground.
  • Set aside hours when you respond to messages.  On the flip side, you can tell people the best times to reach you.  Think of it like a professor with office hours: you know where he’s going to be at certain times during the day so you can ask questions.  Do the same for your teammates and they’ll enjoy your predictability.
  • Use project management software to show what you’re up to.  Obviously, being one of the key founders of Fellowstream, I think it’s smart to keep a list of what you’re doing that anyone can see at any time.  There’s really no point to hiding what you’re working on.  Keeping track of your tasks openly give people an idea of the value you add and they’ll be less likely to bother you.
  • Encourage people to be more self-reliant.  If you’re a leader or manager, some of the interruptions you may be getting are employees “asking permission” to do things.  This generates a lot of wasted time on their part (waiting for the green light) and your part (micromanaging every decision).  Give your employees more room to make their own decisions (and mistakes).  You can review work at a later time.  Key benefit: once an employee can do more things on their own, it not only gives you more time, it makes them more satisfied with their work.
If you have any tips and tricks you’d like to add to the list, let me know!

-Deborah Fike

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